Talk to Her

The films of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar have, to this point, centered on women. They tend to be funny, deep, controversial, and audacious. Winning an Academy Award didn't seem to change any of the ways he makes movies. Almodovar (All About My Mother, Live Flesh) returns here with Talk to Her, a movie that looks like it's about men, but is really still about women. Two of the main characters here are women, although for most of the movie they are in deep comas. It's a plot gimmick that may seem dumb at an initial look, but Almodovar uses it to delve deeply into the psyches of his male characters. They are drawn together by the fact that the women they find important in their lives are both in comas, although when they first meet, they don't realize it. They are sitting next to each other during an opera, and Benigno (Javier Camara, Sex and Lucia, Torrente 2) notices that the man next to him is crying.

Benigno works as a nurse, and his primary patient is Alicia (Leonor Watling, Sound of the Sea, Behind God's Back), a ballet dancer. Benigno dotes on Alicia like a loving husband. He is there as often as he can be (volunteering to take extra shifts), talks to her incessantly, and carefully cleans her and does her makeup and grooming. The new patient at Benigno's hospital is Lydia (Rosario Flores, Chatarra, Danzon), a renowned female bullfighter. She was gored in her last match and now is herself in a coma. By her side is Marco (Dario Grandinetti, La Casa de Tourner, Ilusion de Movimiento), a journalist who initially wanted to do an article on her. They later began a relationship. Benigno remembers Marco when he sees him in the hospital, and they begin their own relationship.

Since this is an Almodovar movie, things can never be that simple. Each relationship present in the film is infinitely more complex than it seems on the surface, and Almodovar slowly peels back the layers as the movie progresses. It's almost like he can't resist taking an outrageous turn near the end of the film, mixing in elements that would be melodramatic in anybody else's hands. Through their conversations, Almodovar reveals who Marco and Benigno truly are, and the way that they truly feel about Alicia and Lydia. They seem like similar people, but have personalities that are very different, and it's hard to believe they can still be friends after everything is in the open. There are all sorts of disparate emotion flying around between the four main characters, and Almodovar does a very good job of balancing them to make sure one doesn't crowd out the other. By the time Talk to Her is over, it's hard to figure out when Almodovar wanted people to laugh, and when he wanted them to cry.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour 52 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated R for nudity, sexual content, and some language.

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